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Vintage Quilt Tops


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I have several questions about quilting vintage tops.   Are there any resources that you used to perfect the process?   Also, do you charge extra for quilting these tops.  (I know that there are folks here who say hand quilt all old tops, and I understand where you are coming from, but some folks are going to opt for machine quilting, regardless.)   My best friend wants me to quilt a vintage quilt top that she has.   Needless to say, that will NOT be the first one I quilt.   I am not going to charge  my friend for quilting this, but it just seems that you would have to take extra care with these kinds of tops.   While I am waiting for our house to be paid off (which will enable a machine purchase) I would like to be studying the best way to work on this top for her.    She is a dear friend and I want to do a good job on it.

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The very first vintage top that was brought to me to quilt on my Millie started shredding when I was just stitching it to the backing. I immediately took it off the machine, called the owner and explained I could not do it on my machine. I recommended that she hand quilt or tie it to keep from destroying it.

Some other vintage tops have done fine, others are lumpy (blocks not squared), etc. You just have to take them one at a time and very Very Careful not to ruin someone's treasure.

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Thank you so much for responding!  This top means a lot to my friend and I want to do a good job on it for her.  I have read that in some cases, folks will put a piece of muslin between the top and batting and sometimes tulle.  There was a great article in Machine Quilting about some old tops that Margaret Solomon Gunn quilted.   She is my hero!   There was a double wedding ring quilt that she did that looked pretty bad prior to quilting and was gorgeous afterward.

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I have quilted several vintage quilt tops. All of the tops I have quilted were in good shape. You put a lot of tension on the tops, unless you float the top, so you have to be very careful. If the top is fragile, I would not attempt it. Maybe that's just me, but I think they need to just enjoy it as is. Sometimes you just can't save them. 

 

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Don't be afraid! These vintage tops are being quilted/finished all the time. Inspect the fabric for open seams and thin spots. Back with muslin if it seems delicate, float it, decide on an era-friendly quilting plan---and go! I rescued this one from a local antique mall. There was evidence that it had been sandwiched and hand-quilted along one end. The buyer must have realized the top itself would sell better if the quilting was removed. There are still "ghosts" of the hand-quilting left and because of that it's very dear to me. 

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I've also done my fair share of vintage tops.  Some were my grandmothers (super duper special) a couple were my mom's, but most were from customers or quilt tops that I purchased on ebay for a song.  I started with the ebay quilts because there was absolutely no sentimental value to me on those quilts.  Unfortunately, the piecing quality on the ebay quilts was very inconsistent.  Most were hand pieced and not very consistently so quilting was a bit of a challenge.  I almost didn't want to machine quilt the DWR that was hand pieced, ..... still haven't quilted that one.  

As for how I load delicate quilts on the frame, I always float my quilts.  I found that with vintage quilts, especially those that are hand pieced, putting them on the rollers puts way too much stress on the seams and often the seams will come undone.  I also take care to make sure the backing is not stretched too tight on the frame.  This won't have anything to do with the seams on the top coming out, I just find that after the quilt is finished it looks much better if the back is not super tight.  Not loose, mind you, but consistent with the top.  

 

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On ‎7‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 0:07 PM, Cagey said:

Mary Beth and Linda;

So if you quilted the vintage quilts on your sit-down or DSM, would you have the same stresses that could cause damage to the quilt top?  Is the damage by the stretching of the fabric or the needle piercing?

Cagey

I floated the top, to keep as much strain off the top as possible. I pinned along the edge of the roller and basted the sides. When I baste the sides, I stitch manually, needle down, move the machine about 1 - 11/2", needle down, and so on. The same across the top. I had one customer give me 4 vintage quilt tops that his mom and aunt made back in the 30's. I had no problem with them what-so-ever. They were in very good condition. No tears, no places that had come unstitched. So that helps. As a side note, I normally do not float tops. I feel too out of control, but for these tops, I do. 

 

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